Epistle: Romans 3:19-28
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
Martin Luther knew what it felt like for the Law to convict him, accuse him, leave him with nowhere to rest. And if you want to know what really sparked the Protestant Reformation it is the fact that feeling this way, Luther read that passage we just heard from Romans, “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift.”
GRACE – God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense
Our worthiness, our forgiveness and our life are given as a gift – by God’s doing, not ours. Not by meeting the standard and feeling proud (which is SIN in and of itself, is it not?), or missing the mark and being filled with despair. Either way, it’s still bondage.
But our relationship with God is not an IF THEN proposition, it is a BECAUSE THEREFORE. Nadia Bolz Weber puts it this way:
Because God is our creator and
because we rebel against the idea of being created beings and insist on trying to be God for ourselves and
because God will not play by our rules and
because in the fullness of time when God had had quite enough of all of that God became human in Jesus Christ to show us who God really is and
because when God came to God’s own and we received him not, and
because God would not be deterred God went so far as to hang from the cross we built and did not even lift a finger to condemn but said forgive them they know not what they are doing and
because Jesus Christ defeated even death and the grave and rose on the 3rd day and
because we all sin and fall short and are forever turned in on ourselves and forget that we belong to God and that none of our success guarantee this and none of our failures exclude this and
because God came to save and not to judge
therefore…therefore you are saved by grace as a gift and not by the works of the law and this truth will set you free like no self-help plan or healthy living or social justice work “shoulds” can ever do. (Nadia Bolz-Weber)
And this gift of God is complete, eternal and unconditional. Why? Because God loves what God created. God knows you, and the one God knows is the one God loves.
Let us pray: Free us from the captivity of sin, and set us free to do your will. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen